The Clare Spark Blog

March 31, 2019

Is there such a thing as “the American people”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:38 pm

American people

Of course we are bound together; as FB friend and lawyer Harry Lewis has reminded me, “the American people” is a legal concept dating from the American War of Independence. As such it asserted itself against Britain. But at a time of drastic polarization between laissez-faire and social democracy/communism, it worth asking about it as a concept.

I suppose that there is, insofar as “the American people” refers to participation in “Western civilization.” (That is, to capitalism, the rule of law, and the value of the individual; though much ink has been spilled to argue against “imperialism” and/or” cultural relativism.)

The phrase “the American people” is of course an example of the collectivist discourse that capitalism sought to displace with the concept of the individual (dissenting or not), and that fight is undermined by the German Romantic conception of “multiculturalism,” now hegemonic, including at Fox. It subsumes the supposedly “racist” conception of individual choice, because we must partake of cultural relativism and mystical identity with a group.(I have called this “groupiness” in anti-imperialist rhetoric.) As such, multiculturalism is a mixed-message, typical of (late?) capitalism facing “socialist” challenges to its rule.

I began worrying about collectivist discourses in graduate school, as it seemed to me that the notion of a unified “working class” erased the individual worker as we had clearly not made the transition to anything resembling communism, and as a sort of leftist, I was supposed to consider the working class as a fighting unit, But my bourgeois upbringing was at stake. Later on, as I tackled world history and US history, I saw that “individualism” was something new in the world, invented by the late 18th Century. Thus it is not surprising that collectivist discourses reasserted themselves through such mystifying conceptions as “the American people.”

Is it any wonder that such confusion persists today, to infect our uniquely American culture? We should tell the children in civics classes.

2 Comments »

  1. We SHOULD “tell the children.” Can you comment on the impact of social media and instant communication? Is it collectivist or individualist?

    Comment by terbreugghen — March 31, 2019 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

    • Of course the media are collectivist. That is the message of multiculturalism, to submerge the individual into groups.

      Comment by clarelspark — March 31, 2019 @ 9:47 pm | Reply


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